While many might think Athletic Trainers only work in sports and schools, ATs are actually used in a variety of settings, including the military, performing arts, medical, NASA, television and industrial settings like Coca-Cola and Campbell’s.
In industry, Athletic Trainers play an important role, helping companies save time and money by ensuring employees who work in manufacturing plants, factories and other active locations can do their job in a healthy, safe environment. ATs can evaluate workstation setups to identify potentially hazardous situations, and help rehabilitate workers onsite. They can also educate personnel on various health topics relating to the workplace.
We recently sat down with certified Athletic Trainer Danielle Stern, who previously worked at General Mills and now contracts with Frito-Lay, to find out more about being an AT in industry:
Q. What inspired you to become an athletic trainer?
A. When I was in high school, I was very interested in learning about how the human body functions and I loved sports. After asking my high school counselor and athletic trainer for suggestions on different career paths, I took a course that introduced me to sports medicine. From that point on, I fell in love with the discipline.
I’ve had numerous mentors who have truly inspired and taught me to look beyond the injury to help find the solution. I attribute my decision to become an athletic trainer to them.
Q. What does it mean to be an Industrial Athletic Trainer at Frito-Lay?
A. To be an Athletic Trainer in a corporate setting has to be one of the most rewarding jobs. I’m able to educate and help people become pain-free, when they didn’t realize it was possible.
I work with a lot of employees who would rather not go to the doctor, and are surrounded by others who are in similar pain and think it is normal. Fortunately, by working onsite, I’m able to help treat and answer team members’ medical questions relating to musculoskeletal injuries, and health and wellness.
Q. Can you describe a typical day? (If there is such a thing…)
A. Every day can be different since we are a 24/7 plant. Because people are working around the clock, I need to be readily available just in case an emergency does occur.
I start my day by checking in with my resources to make sure nothing happened during the off shifts; if an incident took place, I address it as soon as possible. My safety team and I will then do an analysis of how the incident occurred to come up with solutions to prevent injury in the future. I spend approximately 50 percent of my day walking around the plant, assessing ergonomics and getting to know the employees’ job tasks and answering questions.
But depending on how the day goes, I may be in my office a lot longer evaluating injuries or aches, answering questions and trying to introduce preventative wellness programs.
Another important aspect to this setting is providing weekly, monthly and quarterly injury reports to management and safety staff so they can see return on investment.
Q. Why is it important to have an athletic trainer at Frito-Lay and similar companies?
A. Having an Athletic Trainer in the industrial setting is crucial for preventing injuries, and bridging gaps between the safety teams, management and physicians when an injury does occur. The AT is able to provide employees with more support and care throughout the healing process, and can help companies reduce workers compensation and Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) costs.
Q. Favorite/least favorite part of the job?
A. Being able to educate people on how exercise can help overcome injury, disease and illness is so powerful and by far my favorite part of the job. I get to be that tangible healthcare provider who helps people become healthier, happier and better versions of themselves.
My least favorite part is probably the restrictions OSHA places on first aid treatment – this limits what I can and cannot do. But it also challenges me to think out of the box and be more creative in my preventative programs.
Q. Do you think licensure is important for athletic trainers in California? If so, why?
A. Establishing licensure for Athletic Trainers in California is very important because it not only ensures that persons rendering care as an athletic trainer are certified, but it also provides checks and balances regulating ethical acts of practice. Currently there are people in this state who are practicing as ATs without proper education, or have moved here from other states to practice because they lost their license. It’s not safe for someone to treat a person without the proper education.